Journey to the Sinking Lands

A witness to the world's first evacuation of an entire people due to climate change

Archive for People

Talcum? powder

Another letter, and a second shell money, arrives from Buka, with this instruction on the first page:

“Please don’t read the letter or not first do put this powder inside onto your face.

then you can read.

Just a sign of happiness to you.”


dan with powder

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Broadcast date

Simon Elmes, the steadying hand from the BBC who is producing the Journey of a Lifetime programme has just reminded me that the broadcast date has been brought forward by a week.

The show will now be going to air on September 4th, at 11am in the morning. At the moment I have no idea how it is going to sound, and I’m very, very keen to find out.

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Reader, I opened it…

envelope 002… the shell money is beautiful.

The parcel also contained a letter:

Dear Dan,

A tsi soasa (good day) thanks alot for the address which will help me much to send your things quickly.
How are you friend, is your memories still of the Carterets Island?

Your shell money was given by the group 4 Comm this groups starts at the schools and finishes at the boys house and community government office.

Dan, its a gift and a word of appreciation to you, with you, gladness and happiness, for you being one of us eg: eating our special food like coconuts, yevo (the one that looks like a snake but is not a snake) etc.
Thankyou for respecting our Culture and Customs. Your staying at Carterets Island is appreciated so much. With this shell money it shows how much we treasure you in our hearts and in our memories.

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Hello Mr Postman

envelope 001Oh my,

the shell money has arrived. A DHL van arrived with it in the middle of arainstorm this morning. I stood out on the road in my raincoat to meet the driver, feeling about a million miles away from the tropical island on which the shell money was made (technically, about 16,000 miles away).

What do I do? The shell money has been sent by the islanders, so i can pay bride-price for Elle when we get married next month. I’m supposed to hang it around her neck during the ceremony. But should I open it now? Should I show Elle? Should I save it as a surprise? So exiting.

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Letter from Papua New Guinea

envelopeI’ve just received this letter from a friend, Ruth Marcella, on the islands:



a soasa, I hope you are doing well, how are you, Is your good memories still of the Carterets Islands?

I want to talk to you about the shell money. Dan, it is a special gift to you by the group 4 Community. You know you have respected so much our livinng, Culture and Customs. The way we eat and everything, and you have also done what we were not expecting you to do because we know it’s impossible for white man to do, but you did it excellent.

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Plant a seed…

Hell, I was grumpy this morning. Up at six to drive down to a primary school in the Forest of Dean to do an assembly about the Carteret trip. Elle tried to give me a kiss and I think my response was  something along the lines of ‘I don’t have time to muck around’ (note to all fiancees – a; yes, you do have time to muck around and b; you better appreciate it while you can, or priveleges will be withdrawn).

But, the moment I got out the car, my mood lightened. How could it not when as soon as I stood up I could hear the kids in the playground saying ‘There’s Dan!’ ‘Dan’s coming!’ ‘Dan’s coming!’ ‘Dan’s here!’

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Bride price

I think the Carteret Islanders are the nicest people I have ever met. I’ve just received this email (below) from Ruth, one of the people I spent a lot of time talking to on the islands.

She says that, since I left, the islanders have produced some shell money they want to send me. You see, I’m getting married in August and they say I can use this to pay bride-price.

I’ll check with my prospective father-in-law to see if shell money is acceptable.

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